The former CIA agent who interrogated Khalid Sheikh Mohammed warned Whoopi Goldberg against suggesting that President Donald Trump undergo waterboarding before he passes judgement on it, telling Fox News that the president might conclude it isn’t torture and that it works during interrogation.
Dr. James Mitchell, appearing Saturday on “Fox & Friends,” was responding to remarks made by “The View” host earlier in the week as she discussed Trump’s nominee for CIA director, Gina Haspel, who’s come under fire for her part in the George W. Bush administration’s enhanced interrogation program.
“I would like (President Trump) to try (waterboarding),” Goldberg said. “You have never been tortured, and neither has Dick Cheney.”
“I think people who have actually been tortured who are saying this is not a good thing, you should listen to them because you have never been tortured,” she added in a nod to Sen. John McCain, who suffered torture as a POW during the Vietnam War and has opposed Haspel’s nomination.
Cheney told CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo last week that he felt the enhanced interrogation program — which included waterboarding — should be restarted. While Trump had been a supporter of restarting waterboarding during the 2016 campaign, he backed off at the urging of Defense Secretary James Mattis, who opposes the tactic.
Mitchell, however, said Goldberg’s suggestion might backfire on her.
“Honestly, who cares what Whoopi Goldberg thinks?” Mitchell said of the talk-show host. “You know, I’m tempted to just completely dismiss it, but on second thought, maybe she could show us how it’s done.
“Next time there is credible intelligence of another catastrophic attack, with the potential to kill thousands of people in the United States, maybe she can go to some unsafe place in the world and interrogate the terrorist and I’ll stay back home. I’ll stay safe with my family, and I’ll criticize her like she criticized us.”
As for her comment about the president, Mitchell said that not everyone who undergoes waterboarding believes it should be outlawed during interrogations — and one of those people might be the president.
“A strong-willed man like Donald Trump, if he’s exposed to the waterboard, he is not going to think like Whoopi Goldberg thinks,” Mitchell said. “He may see its harshness and think that’s exactly what we need.”
Mitchell recalled how “when they were trying to decide whether or not waterboarding was legal, I waterboarded an assistant attorney general of the United States.
“He got up off the waterboard and decided that not only was it legal, not only was it not torture, but it didn’t violate our treaties with other countries,” Mitchell said.
He added that, given that enhanced interrogation was banned by Congress in 2015, “fussing” about it seems like an “irrelevant waste of time.”
Haspel has not apologized for her role in the enhanced interrogation program under the Bush administration during her confirmation hearings, although she has promised not to restart it if she is confirmed. Her nomination has become a point of contention for Democrats, who have sought to kill her appointment by tying her to the Bush-era program.
While two Republicans have promised to vote against Haspel’s appointment — the aforementioned McCain and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky — Democrat Sens. Joe Manchin and Joe Donnelly, both of whom are running for re-election in red states, have announced they will support Haspel. Assuming all other Republicans vote for her, that would give Haspel 51 votes, enough to clear the nomination process.
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